Obadiah is a Biblical theophorical name, meaning "Yahweh's servant/worshipper." It is cognate to the Arabic name `Ubaidallah (Obeidallah). The form of his name used in the Septuagint is Obdios.
The Prophet Obadiah
In the Old Testament
The prophet named Obadiah is credited with authorship of the shortest book
in the Old Testament, consisting of a mere 21 verses in a single chapter. The date of his ministry
is unclear due to certain historical ambiguities in the book bearing his name. The events recorded in his writings may refer to the invasion of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar
, a date near to 586 B.C. The main thrust of the prophet's ministry, reflected in the themes of his book, is the ultimate victory of the people of God if they maintain their faith. Edom
is used as an example of failure to manifest love toward one's neighbor in times of need, (Obadiah
) and the eventual victory of Israel
is declared in a vision of the future. ()
He was born in Sichem, and is said to have been the third centurion sent out by Ahaz against Elijah.
See main entry on the Book of Obadiah.
In Rabbinic tradition
According to the Talmud
, Obadiah is said to have been a convert to Judaism from Edom
, a descendant of Eliphaz
, the friend of Job
. He is identified with the Obadiah who prophesied against Edom, and it is said that he was chosen to prophesy against Edom because he was himself an Edomite. Moreover, having lived with two such godless persons as Ahab
without learning to act as they did, he seemed the most suitable person to prophesy against Esau
(Edom), who, having been brought up by two pious persons, Isaac
, had not learned to imitate their good deeds.
Obadiah is supposed to have received the gift of prophecy for having hidden the hundred and twenty eight prophets from the persecution of Jezebel. He hid the prophets in two caves, so that if those in one cave should be discovered those in the other might yet escape (1 Kings ).
Obadiah was very rich, but all his wealth was expended in feeding the poor prophets, until, in order to be able to continue to support them, finally he had to borrow money at interest from Ahab's son Jehoram. Obadiah's fear of God was one degree higher than that of Abraham; and if the house of Ahab had been capable of being blessed, it would have been blessed for Obadiah's sake.
He is regarded as a saint by several Christian churches. His feast day is celebrated on January 10 in the Coptic Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite celebrate his memory on November 19 (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, November 19 currently falls on December 2 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). He is celebrated on February 28 in the Syriac and Malankara Churches, and with the other Minor prophets in the Calendar of saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 31.
According to an old tradition, Obadiah is buried in Samaria.
Other Obadiahs in the Old Testament
Other individuals named Obadiah in the Old Testament are listed as:
- the servant of king Ahab of Israel (). According to the tradition of the Orthodox Church, this is the same individual as the prophet.
- the son of Hananiah, a descendant of king David of Israel through Solomon (1 Chronicles )
- the son of Uzzi, a descendant of the Hebrew patriarch Issachar ()
- the son of Azel, a descendant of king Saul of Israel through Jonathan ()
- the son of Shemaiah, a descendant of the Hebrew patriarch Levi ()
- a warrior descended from the Hebrew patriarch Gad that served king David ()
- the father of Ishmaiah, governor of the tribe of Zebulun during the reign of king David ()
- a prince of the southern kingdom of Judah during the reign of king Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles )
- a Levite, overseer of the reconstruction efforts during the reforms of king Josiah of Judah ()
- the son of Joab, one of the individuals who returned from the Babylonian captivity with the priestly scribe Ezra, and possibly the Levite mentioned in (Nehemiah ) as a porter of Jerusalem's gates after the city's reconstruction under Nehemiah (Ezra )
- Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1924.